Highland distillery helps Indian whiskies go premium

Highland distillery helps Indian whiskies go premium

For Indian whisky makers wanting to go premium, there is a ‘partner-in-waiting’ in the Scottish Highlands

So far as whisky goes, the Indian consumer is king! The top-selling market for the amber spirit sells 200 million cases annually; but roughly 160 million cases are low-end whiskies bottled under the ‘India made foreign liquor (IMFL)’ tag.

While Scotch whisky is not new to Indian tastes – about 3.5 million cases of Scotch whisky are sold here each year – it can get prohibitively expensive on account of taxation.

As the market for alcoholic beverages expands, and as more consumers demand a better tipple for their rupee, whisky manufacturers in the country are increasingly looking to step up the ‘premium’ ladder.

The aim is to offer better, more flavourful and full-bodied whiskies to satisfy the ever demanding and sophisticated Indian palate. They are taking to blending Scotch in their upgraded and/or new whiskies.

The Loch Lomond Distillery from the Scottish Highlands offers such Indian “partners” a range of solutions – from distilling customised spirits from malt or grain in bulk, to helping them launch exclusive blends and brands for their local market, according to Mr Andy Calder, Sales Director for the Scotch distillery.

Bespoke blends

“The USP of the Loch Lomond Distillery is that it can supply 11 different spirit types, thanks to using different barleys, different yeasts, long fermentation times and also running the spirit through traditional swan-neck stills, in addition to our unique straight-neck stills; and by owning our own cooperage. We can then further tailor the profile of the spirits,” Andy stresses.

Since 2016, when it began operations in India, the Loch Lomond Distillery has brought in 350 styles into the country in the course of serving its dozen-odd bulk whisky consumers. The company has helped its Indian partners go premium by introducing as many creative flavours and styles in their spirits.

Andy admits to his Indian clients being very creative and demanding at the same time. But, he insists, nine out of ten times he has been able to meet customer specifications and seen their delight.

“From our partners’ requirements, it’s clear that existing profiles can lean toward fruity and floral profiles, some lightly peated, and a clear desire to see more full-bodied and enhanced peat influence,” he adds.

The Loch Lomond Distillery is one of the largest suppliers of bulk Scotch globally. Today it exports to over 60 countries with its variety of spirit profiles and ages. Its core branded portfolio is now distributed in over 123 countries. Most recently IWSR data illustrated that the Loch Lomond single malt brand is now one of the Top 5 selling single malts globally.

“Our bulk Scotch has proven to be of such high quality and with a range of profiles which sits well with our partners’ desire to create their own whisky/Scotch brand,” Andy notes, adding that the business and its brands continue to win many international awards and global endorsements.

Unique stills

The Loch Lomond Group also owns and runs the Glen Scotia Distillery in Campbeltown, established in 1832. It produces 8,00,000 litres of spirit each year.

But the real workhorse is the Loch Lomond Distillery, which produces each year 18 million litres of grain (wheat) spirit and another 5 million litres of malt spirit.

At any given time this Highland distillery has a diverse range of stocks in both age and profile, and is well-positioned to drive its business today – but also in coming years, which is hugely important.

The malt distillery has a series of traditional pot stills, with both swan necks and straight necks, in addition to housing a continuous still in its malt distillery, which is unique.

“Having the straight neck stills allows our stillmen to have a firm control not only of the quality of the spirit produced but also its style. We can take the spirits cuts-off at a high strength and a low strength,” Andy says.

“This ensures distinct styles – from light floral through to very fruity, and all with varying levels of peat. The straight-neck stills at Loch Lomond include platelets that allow the spirit to engage a lot more with the copper.”

In-house cooperage

“Loch Lomond’s focus on quality is unwavering,” says Andy. “The distillery is one of only four in the industry that owns its own cooperage. This is to ensure that barrel repairs and charring are carried out to an exacting standard; so that every cask is perfect for maturing our Loch Lomond spirit.”

The distillery owns approximately 500,000 casks. Typically, around 10,000 barrels require repairs each year, and this operation is managed by six full-time coopers.

“Innovation has always been at the heart of the Loch Lomond Distillery and we were one of the first distilleries to introduce a re-char machine, which allows our Master Blender to manage the style of wood into which our new make spirit or mature spirit can spend time in,” Andy adds.

Andy notes that although the Loch Lomond Distillery has a small team, it has a large capability for what can be done. “We understand the distilling process so intrinsically that we can vary this to achieve the exact flavour we want before the whisky enters the cask.”

The Loch Lomond business tends to purchase American oak barrels. At its Glen Scotia Distillery all its new make spirit is filled into first fill bourbon barrels, which complements the Campbeltown profile.

Sustainable supply

Loch Lomond Distillery was commissioned by the Littlemill Distilling Company in 1964 with its first distillation in 1966. In 1984, the distillery “fell silent”, but was revived and resumed malt production in 1987. Grain whisky production began in 1993.

At the time the grain distillery opened, it was the only one in Scotland producing both grain and malt whisky. It has the ability and self-sufficiency to produce special edition whisky including, single grain whisky and deluxe blends.

Today, the Loch Lomond Distillery has made its mark worldwide for its ability to design Scotch whisky profiles in bulk for its customers, as well as for its consistency in delivering quality and on time.

“With our large stock of profiles and deep inventories of our produce, we can support a sustainable supply chain for our bulk customers anywhere in the world,” Andy signs off.

Loch Lomond Distillery is represented in India by Mr Rukn Luthra, Managing Director of Fermentras India Pvt. Ltd, and a long-time industry professional. (rukn.luthra@lochlomondgroup.com).